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Unleashed E50: Tim Caulfield - Fact or Fiction? Battling Misinformation in Our Organizations

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Leaders are wasting time and making poor decisions based on misinformation. Worse, misinformation can cause polarization and friction in our teams. Tim Caufield shares how to recognize it and what to do about it.  

Tim shares how misinformation gets started, how it propagates, and as leaders how to manage it. Caufield is an award-winning researcher, author, and advisor on policy to the Canadian government and other major organizations.

Actions You Can Take Right Now

  1. Recognize that we live in a world of misinformation which can impair our decision making and create fear and conflict in our organizations. Leaders must take action to debunk the myths, focus on evidence, and help their people separate fact from fiction.
  2. Looking for bodies of evidence instead of a single source is the best way to diagnose and debunk misinformation. Simply asking, “What is the supporting evidence…” is often enough.
  3. Anyone can fall for misinformation. Respect people’s beliefs and lead with listening and empathy. Find common ground and work to nudge people towards questioning their own positions and the evidence supporting them.
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Episode Highlights and Excerpts

  • Misinformation is real and abundant in our world today. Thanks to social media, anyone can be a broadcaster.
  • Invalid information not only impairs decision making, but widespread it can polarize people creating conflict and tension. In the workplace, this can reduce engagement and mental health.
  • Some misinformation has ad-hoc sources, but studies have shown that carefully orchestrated misinformation campaigns have been launched to create chaos and confusion in our populations.
  • Misinformation that is debunked early won’t take off, but if it is not challenged early, will gain momentum. Stories linking 5G to cancer and the spread of COVID-19 is an example of this. Another example is that Bill Gates is secretly putting microchips in vaccines – 30% of Americans believe this to be true.
  • Misinformation that takes off tends to have common traits:
    • It’s negative and scary.
    • It plays to our emotions.
    • Has a moral or ideological dimension.
    • Is easy to process.
  • Often the source of misinformation is motivated by a self-serving agenda. This is a reason to be suspect.
  • Everyone has a responsibility to verify information before using it or passing it along. Simply asking, “What kind of evidence…” is often enough. Look for bodies of evidence, not just one source, to validate information.
  • When dealing with people that hold strongly to misinformed beliefs, be empathetic, listen, look for common ground, and slowly nudge them towards other sources.
  • People do change their minds. Consider that initially 50% of people were hesitant about COVID vaccines, and now over 90% are vaccinated.
  • Everyone is responsible for debunking misinformation, but leaders and the scientific community must model the right approaches and behaviours. Educators need to also work harder at teaching critical thinking techniques.

Take Your Business to the Next Level 

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Tim Caulfield

Timothy Caulfield Unleashed S6

Timothy Caulfield is a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, a Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health, and Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. His interdisciplinary research on topics like stem cells, genetics, research ethics, the public representations of science and health policy issues has allowed him to publish over 350 academic articles.

He has won numerous academic and writing awards and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. He contributes frequently to the popular press and is the author of two national bestsellers: The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness (Penguin 2012) and Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash (Penguin 2015). His most recent book is The Vaccination Picture (Penguin, 2017). Caulfield is also the host and co-producer of the award-winning documentary TV show, A User’s Guide to Cheating Death, which has been shown in over 60 countries and is currently streaming on Netflix.

 

Tim